back to article US undergrads crash NASA satellite into Arctic

Undergraduate students in America managed to get control of the manoeuvring thrusters of an orbiting 2000-lb NASA satellite at the weekend, sending it plummeting into the Earth's atmosphere to rain burning fragments across the chilly seas north of Norway and Russia. "They ran calculations to determine where the spacecraft was …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    What a let down...

    Here was I all prepared to have a good laugh at some numpty somewhere and the punchline was...

    ...they meant to do it.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    American Pie: Space Camp?

    "Stifler? What the fuck did you just do?"

  3. John Tserkezis
    Thumb Up

    A good thing I suppose...

    It's one rare instance where you can claim that you were directly responsible for the crash and burn on your resume, and it be a good thing...

  4. Anonymous Coward


    A women at the controls of a space ship. The apocalypse is afoot.

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: WTF

      Aw, you guys are so cute when you try to be incendiary.

    2. Paul RND*1000


      No no no no! The apocalypse is quite clearly a *hand*, poised on the controls and ready to drop white-hot satellites on our heads without warning.

      Unless they used their feet to steer the thing with because their hands were busy texting their mates and Twittering.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: women at the controls of a space ship.

      No cool, man. Even as a joke.

  5. Graham Marsden

    And I was thinking...

    ... this was some version of Howard Wolowitz's "Hey baby, do you want to drive a car on Mars?"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safety first...

    "...sending it plummeting into the Earth's atmosphere to rain burning fragments across the chilly seas north of Norway and Russia".

    Nowhere near the good ol' U S of A, then! If anyone is going to get hit by a supersonic burning fragment, it'll be a Norwegian or Russian.

    As a thought experiment, imagine what might be said and done if a foreign nation were to dump one of its old satellites through US airspace into, say, the Gulf of Mexico.

    1. Notas Badoff

      BP would be blamed...

      for paying said government to create a _different_ outrage in the Gulf.

      And there'd be frontpage pictures of a Greenpeace activist clutching an oily radioactive piece of the satellite to their chest, crying "This poor bird will never fly again!"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You got to be kidding..

      .. crash a sat and prove the existence of those "invisible" sub surface oil plumes by igniting them?

      Having said that, it maybe could have plugged the hole quicker..

    3. Chronigan


      I believe you will find that country's airspace does not include areas outside of the atmosphere or past the 12 mile limit.

    4. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @Tom Welsh

      "As a thought experiment, imagine what might be said and done if a foreign nation were to dump one of its old satellites through US airspace into, say, the Gulf of Mexico."

      THe US would huff, and it would puff and it completely ineffective at anything. I mean, really, what is the US going to do? Invade your country to steal your Oil? They seem to be remarkably ineffective at that. Lob a missile at you? Because countries that launch satellites don’t have the capability to make the US regret that one right quick.

      What’s left? Economic sanctions? What economy? (BTW, those economic sanctions…they worked SO WELL against Cuba. My last vacation there was oh so burdened by the lack of ability to buy…actually, it was bloody awesome.) What /exactly/ is the US going to do to /anyone/ who has the economy or technological capability to launch spacecraft?

      If they were REALLY DUMB they might shoot it down. Then they risk turning one dangerous falling object into many. I’m sorry, but if someone deorbited a satellite over US airspace into the ocean the US would be capable of doing exactly sweet **** all about it.

  7. Geoff Mackenzie

    I would have liked them to ...

    ... drop it somewhere inland and unpopulated. I'd love a bit of charred satellite, and if 10% of it hit the ground, I bet it was worth watching, too.

  8. Martin.Hale

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    ""Student operators provide a lower cost to NASA..."

    Given the perilous state of the US economy, is there perhaps a suggestion for other US government agencies in this spokesmouth's PC pandering? Maybe one of the cadre of White House interns can finally take some action which will get their economy moving forward again. The paid professionals sure haven't been able to deliver any meaningful results.

  9. Alan Firminger

    Why ?

    All satellites that do not have controlled re-entry built in could be designed to fragment so that nothing gets to earth. Include a plug of semtex if necessary.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @Alan Firminger

      Terrible idea. If a satellite designed to deorbit into the ocean gets hit by debris then you have one (or maybe a smallish number more than one) bits of uncontrollable junk in orbit. If a satellite designed to fragment into bits on contact with atmo gets hit by debris it will SHATTER, and you juve just created the orbital equivalent of a shotgun blast.

      From a “how do we dispose of this satellite” standpoint, your idea is brilliant. From a “what happens if the unexpected occurs” standpoint, it’s a hazard.

  10. gimbal
    Paris Hilton

    Would be odd to set a trend for it

    The Arctic: Favorite bullseye for defunct satellites ?

    I wonder what its remains looked like, when it was impacting the ice? Seriously, though, there could be some sort of an eXtreme nonsense TV potential in this, if only they knew...

    Paris, because like mater is to antimatter, so is science to pop-nouveau celebrity.

  11. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    Mullti-million dollar satellite?

    Surely not. It was just another lump of space debris. Best place for that is in the scrap yard, er..ocean.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    At Cedars School of Excellence they only gave me an iPad.

    I did manage to break it tho.

    (Joke! I've never even been to Greenrock! :-)

  13. 32holes

    It pays to read ...

    the whole article.

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